If you live it, there’s probably a way to track it.
Nike Fuelband, Jawbone Up, and Fitbit Flex will track every move you make. Other apps track meals, bowel movements, workouts, productive moments, and even sex lives. There's a gadget for photographing your life at 30-second intervals. And, lest our first moments go undocumented, onesies for tracking infants hit stores this holiday season.
Isn't it time we started tracking all of these trackers? A handful of new companies are.
“Part of the trouble with quantified self is that people are getting a tiny, tiny picture of one aspect of their lives and trying to change their lives based on that, but there are so many other factors that affect it,” says Belle Beth Cooper, the co-founder of the company behind a tracker-for-trackers called Exist that she plans to launch early next year (disclosure: Cooper has contributed articles to Fast Company). “So if you’re tracking your sleep, for instance, there could be so many factors that affect that like the weather, or what you’re eating, or what you’re doing right before bed for an hour.”
Exist’s private alpha version incorporates FitBit devices, Jawbone Up, the Moves App, weather data, Last.fm playlists, and Twitter activity into one dashboard, but the idea is to add as many trackers as possible, including those for productivity and mood. As the different types of data expands, so will the breadth of correlations Exist can point out. Cooper, for instance, recently realized through Exist that she tweets more when she works from home. Eventually, she may be able to deduce whether or not that makes her more productive based on data from other apps, and the service would be able to make suggestions for where she should work based on those habits. “Like a Google Now for your whole life,” she says.
Another product that has tackled the tracker for tracker idea called TicTrac, allows users to organize multiple data feeds into easy-to-read project dashboards. For a project called “New Baby,” for instance, it suggests inputting baby crying, baby height, diaper changes, feeding, and baby mood as well as connecting some trackers that will automatically update baby weight and baby sleep. Another project called “fitness” suggests trackers from which TicTrac can pull activity, calories burned, food and drink, weather, weight and individual activities. Users can also create customized projects on their own. Carepass, another option by benefits provider Aetna, zeros in on health and fitness with its tracker dashboard by adding options to check symptoms, research conditions, and find doctors. Others, like Saga, connect to trackers across the board--everything from the books you read to your mood--in order to simply document your life.
Self-tracker enthusiasts have a similar problem as users of the Kindle or iTunes. Once they start putting their data in one system or another, their data seems stuck in that place. They can’t easily compare data to inputs from other apps or move it to another place--even if it’s more useful with more context from other sources. Tracking the trackers is one answer to that.
“Hopefully, once we do more data analysis, we’re able to help users use that data to make a difference in their lives,” Cooper says, “rather than just tracking for the sake of tracking.”